Mighty Life List
Jul 30 2010

The Bell Jar

I’m just now reading this. Favorite parts of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.

“She stared at her reflection in the glossed shop windows as if to make sure, moment by moment, that she continued to exist.”

“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

17 Responses to “The Bell Jar”

  • Erin B. Says:

    I loved this quote so much I put it up in 3-in letters on the wall of my guest bathroom… love, love, love it!

    “There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them.”

  • Jen Says:

    Oh the Bell Jar is one of my absolute favorites. I read it in college and have been meaning to re read it for years. I love Sylvia Plath.
    Have you ever read any of her poetry? I strongly recommend it. I do I do I do!!

  • Melanie Says:

    I love The Bell Jar – I’ve read it at least 5 times. Not that keen on her poetry, though – I love Anne Sexton (one of her writing compatriots) so much more. Glad you read this, though – it’s one of those books I think everyone should read (even my husband has!)

  • Spring Says:

    It’s been way too long since I’ve read this, probably about seven years. And they’ve been a tumultuous seven years. Thanks to you, it’s just been moved to the top of my list.

  • Hillary Says:

    And passages like that are why I fell in love with that book as a teenager. (And also why, given that it was written by someone suicidal, I sometimes worried I identified with it too closely.)

  • Maggie E Says:

    I loved this book when I read it in high school, and I hadn’t thought until right now, reading your post, how great it would be to re-read, and find out what a different experience it may be. I remember walking walking into my mom’s den while reading it and I looked up from the book and said, “Mom, what’s a CADaver” She laughed and said, “CaDAVer? What are you READING?!?”
    Yep, it’s time to visit it again! Thanks for the reminder!

  • denise Says:

    i can relate to the second quote.

  • Stephanie Pina Says:

    I read The Bell Jar for the first time this year. It’s haunting and raw. I love it. If you also enjoy Plath’s poetry, I recommend this book http://www.amazon.com/Poetry-Speaks-Great-Poets-Tennyson/dp/1570717206
    It has many great poets reciting their poetry in rare recordings. It’s moving to hear Plath recite her poetry.

  • Jennifer Says:

    I loved that book when I was a non-outwardly angst-y teenager, over a decade ago. The Bell Jar and The Awakening, two of my favorite from senior year english class! I should revisit them both.

  • jennifer Says:

    i kind of always liked this ~
    “i felt very still and very empty, the way the eye of a tornado must feel, moving dully in the middle of the surrounding hullabaloo” – sylvia plath, the bell jar

  • kristen Says:

    I adore this book, and the fig tree section has my excited marginalia in it from my first read when I was 25. Lots of !!s and “yes!” But I re-read the novel a few months ago and it made me depressed for 3 days. That’s the power of a great writer at work.

  • Genesis Hansen Says:

    I had the fig tree quote on an index card on my bulletin board for many, many years. Such a great passage! I related so strongly to that indecision and anxiety in my younger years (one of the reasons I suffered from insomnia, maybe?); it’s a relief to read it now and realize it no longer applies.

  • robin Says:

    I love this book as well. It’s better to read it at a time when your life is going well and you’re happy. It’s easier to see the beauty in the imagery.

    The first time I read it I was deeply depressed having just lost my first “real” job. (Thus the time to finally read). Quotes like the ones you posted made me question if anything was ever real.

  • monica Says:

    Funny that you posted this. A friend of mine just started a blog “52 Figs” http://52figs.blogspot.com, inspired by exactly that quote which she shared with me the other day. (It’s basically her Mighty Life list.)

  • Maren Says:

    Heh, I knew you’d quote that second passage — and I’m not surprised to see so many other people have related to it over the years. It’s sort of a difficult book to read as an adult when you originally read (and overidentified with it) as a teenager, but I still treasure my occasional rereads.

  • Jessalee Says:

    Ah, The Bell Jar! I read this just a couple of years ago for the first time. So glad I did. She painted her pictures so well you feel like you’re falling with her.

  • e Says:

    Second quote: Damn. Get out of my head, please, Sylvia Plath.